The Guardian vindicates CiF Watch

One of the more common questions we get pertains to how CiF Watch is making an impact or, indeed, how we quantify that success.

Our many supporters are typically quite curious regarding the degree to which our efforts at combating antisemitism at the Guardian are producing results.

In response we typically point to our increased web traffic; our greater presence, and overall “buzz”, on TwitterFacebook and other social media; ‘Comment is Free”s relative improvement in more promptly removing antisemitic comments beneath the line; as well as the curious absence over the last year or so, on the pages of ‘Comment is Free’, of some of the more notorious antisemitic commentators.

However, a recent post by the Guardian’s Chris Elliott, the paper’s Readers’ Editor, “On averting accusations of antisemitism“, Nov. 6, was an even clearer indication that our blog is indeed making an impact.

Specifically, Elliott sought to address “complaints that it is carrying material that… lapses into language resonant of antisemitism or is antisemitic”, citing “organisations monitoring the Guardian’s coverage” which “examine the language in articles – and the comments posted underneath them online – as closely as the facts.” [emphasis mine]

While there is much in Elliott’s polemic which is off the mark – and he doesn’t nearly go far enough in calling out the frequent antisemitic tropes found at the paper – he did single out a few especially egregious examples of antisemitic rhetoric by Guardian writers for opprobrium:  namely, Deborah Orr’s mocking use of the phrase “the chosen” (to evoke the notion that Jews are inherently racist), and their deletion of the term “slavish” (used to describe the US relationship with Israel) from two CiF essays. 

However, regarding the former, as Harry’s Place notedthough the Guardian now appears to admit that it is antisemitic to use the phrase Chosen People falsely to attack Jews as supremacists, here is Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children, the play which is online, in print and video, at the Guardian’s own website:

“…tell her we’re better haters, tell her we’re chosen people, tell her I look at one of their children covered in blood and what do I feel? tell her all I feel is happy it’s not her.”

As Anthony Julius wrote of the play:

“In this play, Jews confess to lying to their own children and killing Palestinian children. They also confess to something close to a project of genocide. And they freely acknowledge the source of their misanthropy to be Judaism itself.”

And, as I noted in my Jewish Chronicle essay today, another dangerous dynamic at the Guardian, which Elliott didn’t address, is the licensing of commentators with an undeniable record of antisemitism, while justifying their politics as merely anti-Zionist or pro-Palestinian. 

For instance, Ben White, published regularly at CiF, wrote that, given Israel’s behavior, he can certainly understand why some people are antisemitic, condemned the “widespread bias and subservience to the Israeli cause in the Western media” and recommended an essay by a well-known Holocaust denier. 

An even more egregious example is the Guardian’s decision to publish a letter by Gilad Atzmon – a writer who has accused Jews of literally controlling the world and frequently advances other odious Judeophobic narratives which are indistinguishable from far right antisemitism.

Indeed, another troubling issue which Elliott didn’t discuss is the paper’s continuing antisemitic sins of omission in their characterizations of Israel’s opponents.  

As the prolific Tom Gross pointed out for The Commentator,:

“Hamas master terrorist Nizar Rayan, who directed suicide bombers (including his own son) to murder and injure dozens of Israeli civilians, and who described Jews as a “cursed people” whom Allah changed into “apes and pigs,” was portrayed in The Guardian  as someone who was “highly regarded” and “considered a hero” (Jan. 3, 2009).”

Further, the Guardian’s coverage of the UK’s detention of Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement’s northern division in Israel, was as obsessive as it was at pains to white wash (or ignore) the extremist preacher’s undeniable record of antisemitism – which included a sermon where he advanced the blood libel and an interview in which he endorsed antisemitic conspiracy theories about 9/11

Indeed, one of Salah’s chief defenders in the UK has been CiF contributor Daud Abdullah, director of the Islamist, openly pro-Hamas, organization MEMO. In 2009 Abdullah signed the so-called the Istanbul Declaration which included a passage justifying attacks on Jewish communities all around the world. 

Elliott concluded his post, thusly:

“I have been careful to say that these examples may be read asantisemitic because I don’t believe their appearance…was the result of deliberate acts of antisemitism: they were inadvertent. But that does not lessen the injury to some readers or to our reputation…Reporters, writers and editors must be more vigilant to ensure our voice in the debate is not diminished because our reputation has been tarnished.”

As Simon Plosker observed for Honest Reporting, the Guardian seems “more concerned that anti-Semitism appearing on The Guardian’s pages is bad for the paper’s reputation rather than concern about anti-Semitism itself.”

As such, Gross, in his Commentator essay, notes, “The [Guardian] likes to think of itself as a bastion of liberalism, fairness and anti-racism…”

So, while we certainly welcome the Guardian’s acknowledgement that the arguments this blog advances have merit – and, indeed, in my communication with Elliott, I’ve always found him to be fair, professional, and respectful – it still doesn’t seem that his institution can wrap their mind around the notion that those of a leftist persuasion can be afflicted with anti-Jewish racism. 

As Anne, of the blog Anne’s Opinion’s, wrote about the Guardian semi-apology:

“Let us hope that this marks the beginning of a recalibration of their editorial standards.”

In the meantime, however, our work monitoring the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’ for antisemitism continues unabated.

CiF Watch is dedicated to the modest proposition that expressions of hatred against Jews, whether emanating from the right or the left, are never justified, is inherently inconsistent with genuine progressive thought, and must always be exposed and fiercely combated.

9 replies »

  1. And Oh Dear according to the circulation figures for October, year on year The Guardian’s circulation has declined by 16.6% to just over 230,000.
    That was before the recent price increase which will probably accelerate the decline.
    All I can say is it couldn’t happen to a more deserving rag.

  2. “I don’t believe their appearance…was the result of deliberate acts of antisemitism: they were inadvertent”


    What in heaven’s name is “an inadvertent act of antisemitism”?

  3. Adam and CiF Watch, well done! However, I have to say this:

    The Guardian’s Israel/Jew hatred is so acceptable to it that it scarcely notices when it is being antisemitic. The hatred of Israel, its citizens, government and supporters around the world is so ingrained that it’ll take far more than this to shift it. Having said that, you may just have initiated the first cracks in its edifice, a potentially fatal weakening which, if the Guardian continues in the same vein and you people continue to apply the correct pressure, can cause it to collapse completely. It deserves to do so because it has so consummately betrayed the principles on which it was founded.

    For me, the sheer hypocrisy of the Guardian and its zoo of journalists/hacks is summed up by the behaviour of Jonathan Freedland. We are told that he was shocked into the realisation, at the recent debate about BDS in which he participated and which is reported elsewhere on this blog, that the machinators of BDS don’t just want the end of the occupation but the end of Israel’s very existence (and to deny the right of Jews to self-determination is also an antisemitic act). Freedland is a journalist and is, one assumes, worldly-wise, both of which beg the question of why the Israel hatred in the debate was so shocking to him, given that he is employed by the most anti-Israel newspaper in the UK, which also gives space above and below the line to antisemites. Could it have been shocking only outside the Guardian environment and because, as a result of Freedland having worked for so long in the toxic anti-Israel environment of the Guardian, he was inured to it there?

    Even so, he was brought to his senses, we were led to believe, and was visibly shaken by the reception the BDSers gave to speeches in opposition to their views.

    Now, here’s the rub: One might assume that, having been shocked into reality by such an experience, Freedland might convey something of them in his future articles about Israel, but no, he is so much the Guardian’s man that he has been able to split off the cognitive dissonance his experience at the debate must have caused him, and achieved consonance by denying to himself that he had had that experience.

    So, you people have your work cut out for you. Please keep up the pressure. Point up every hypocrisy large or small, every example of double standards, every mealy-mouthed excuse for antisemitism and support of the Islamism which enables it to grow above and below the line.

  4. I used to read the Guardian regularly, and felt they reflected my (formerly) socialist views. But over the last few years their extreme and unfounded anti-semitic views (not backed up by any formal research, facts, figures etc.) -but, hey don’t let that stop them- leaves me bemused, angry, furious. I always thought racism was illegal, but it doesn’t seem to count if it’s against us.

    • nicole coen, racism IS illegal. It doesn’t count when it’s against Jews and in the Guardian because they are not aware that they are being so offensive – as I said above, they are inured to it.

      The best evidence of that, and the most damning indictment of the Guardian’s attitude to antisemitism, is Elliott’s excuse that it is “inadvertent.” How the hell can something that is racist and offensive by definition be “inadvertent” unless it is perceived to the part of the culture in an organisation?

  5. Absolute BS,nothing has changed,just a bit of lip service from this Chris Elliot,their site is full of poster who still post foul and nasty shit about Israel,and have no fear of being deleted.

    in fact in some cases it’s become even worse than before…….

    This guy speaks with a reptilian forked tongue………..

    • Well. Posters can post lies and certainly, as far as Israel is concerned, the ‘moderators’ don’t seem to notice even when the abuse button is used. (Like – ‘Israel targets civilians’, ‘Israel is an Apartheid state’ and ‘Israel kills children’)

      However if you use a phrase with Muslim/Islam and the word ‘slaughter’, the moderators seem overly alert.

      And of course, one mustn’t mention that ‘The Holy Prophet’ was a pedophile. That gets deleted so quickly that there is not time to repeat ‘Alan Rusbridger’.

      Their ‘moderation’ as appalling yet they feel free to use it to remove difficult facts that do not jibe with their Guardian World View.

    • They do have a whole stable of Arabic speaking webmates, though since the announcement the actuality has been allowed to fade into the background and articles are posted as translations from one language to another without fanfare now. We are in fact encouraged to forget this because it’s no longer mentioned.

      When you take on a partnership with people who are characterised by not subscribing to human rights then their prejudices come with them as a bonus. We can perhaps look forward to the Guardian being slightly less tolerant to their own enlightenment of the past as the demands of their new partnership become more & more insistent.